"Clifford, The Big Red Dog" celebrates his 50th birthday this year. The second animated adaptation of Norman Bridwell's enormously popular printed pup was produced by Scholastic and aired from 2000-2003 on PBS; voiced by late actor John Ritter, Clifford, The Big Red Dog ran for more than 60 episodes before Ritter's sudden death (and Clifford's Really Big Movie) ended the series. This animated production, aimed squarely at single-digit kids, teaches simple life lessons with a variety of colorful young characters.
Two-legged characters include Emily Elizabeth Howard (Clifford's loving young owner), Charley (Emily's best human friend and a skilled soccer player), Jetta (a selfish young girl who occasionally learns from her actions) and more. Of course, the kind-hearted Clifford's got a handful of furry friends too, including T-Bone (a cute little bulldog who, on at least one occasion, wants to be tough) and Cleo (a poodle who always steers Clifford and T-Bone wrong). Naturally, the animals only talk when they're alone, Clifford usually saves the day and each adventure wraps up neatly in 11 minutes. Considering the series' target audience is preschool to elementary-aged kids, Clifford, The Big Red Dog usually hits the right notes.
Scholastic's Celebrate With Clifford serves up seven seemingly random 11-minute shorts, most of which have already been collected on DVD in past compilations, as well as a Happy Birthday, Clifford! bonus disc (originally released in 2002 and now out of print in its original form). Together, it makes for a rather slapdash celebration from a strictly themed perspective...but for anyone who doesn't have more than a disc or two's worth of Clifford in their home, this low-priced set offers plenty of bang for your buck.
Episodes Include: "Clifford's Carnival" • "The Best Gift" • "Screaming for Ice Cream"
"Clifford on Parade" • "Team Spirit" • "Tough Enough" • "Clifford the Pirate King"
Quality Control Department
Video & Audio Quality
Not much to complain about overall. This 1.33:1 presentation maintains the show's original aspect ratio, its colors are relatively vivid and no glaring digital imperfections could be detected, aside from occasional interlacing, mild aliasing and compression artifacts (mostly on the bonus disc, as it's a recycled DVD from 2002). Clifford's loose visual appearance doesn't put it anywhere near the top of the cartoon heap (even by TV standards), but at least the modest presentation has been reasonably maintained here.
The audio, presented in Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo, is similarly basic and gets the job done. Dialogue, music and sound effects are clear without fighting for attention, channel separation is good and really, that's all you can ask for. No optional subtitles are included, but Closed Captions are at least supported.
Menu Design, Presentation & Packaging
Seen below, these plain-wrap menu designs are smooth and easy to navigate, though a number of trailers, logos, warning screens and other advertisements must be dealt with beforehand. This two-disc release is packaged inside a standard black hinged keepcase and includes one promotional insert.
The first disc includes five "Speckle Stories" (8 minutes total), short animal-themed tales read by Emily Elizabeth. These include "The Bouncing Bubbles", "The Music Makers", "The Wishing Star", "The Slumber Party" and "The Costume Party". There are also two Trailers for other Scholastic Clifford releases.
The second disc, Happy Birthday, Clifford!, is a recycled 2002 DVD with eight themed Bonus Episodes. These include "T-Bone, Dog About Town", "Clifford's Big Heart", "Mimi's Back In Town", "The Best Gift", "The Best Party Ever", "Clifford's Big Surprise", "Potluck Party Pooper" and "It's My Party". Also included here are three "Big Idea" shorts featuring Clifford and company as they share a few more life lessons for kids and their parents. "Real-Life Doggy Friends" follows a handful of furry companions in action, while "Cleo's Groovy Grooming Shop" is a cute interactive game. You can dress up puppies! Whee!
Aside from the occasional video hiccups mentioned above (and, of course, the fact that "The Best Gift" is repeated on both discs), it's nice that Clifford fans basically get two DVDs for the price of one.
Scholastic's Clifford, The Big Red Dog isn't exactly the pinnacle of animation...but it is a worthwhile kids' show that teaches basic life lessons in an entertaining way (and without patronizing its audience, too!). Though John Ritter's death cemented the series' end in 2003, the bulk of Clifford's existing 67 episodes are all of reasonably good quality. Celebrate With Clifford is an accessible entry point for new viewers, or at least a cheap way to fill out your existing collection. Boasting a quality A/V presentation and several worthwhile extras, there's a nice amount of content here for the asking price. Firmly Recommended.
Randy Miller III is an affable office monkey by day and film reviewer by night. He also does freelance design work, teaches art classes and runs a website or two. In his limited free time, Randy also enjoys slacking off, juggling HD DVDs and writing in third person.